50. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle” (2001)
If you’re ever in need of a cathartic experience after a bad day, all you need to do is get in your car, get on the road and blast this 2000s pop punk anthem. Written after the band was dropped by Capitol Records, Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” may very well be the most uplifting emo rock song one will ever hear, largely due to an abundance of cliché encouragements like “don’t write yourself off yet” and “just do your best.” This message of hope is further pushed by an incredibly catchy chorus complete with joyful power chords and a hook made up of repeated lines like “everything will be alright.” However, these cliché sayings do not come off as cheesy in the slightest, maybe because the band truly believes in what they’re singing, as they created the track in one of the lowest points in their career. — Drew Pearce
49. Hercules and Love Affair (ft. Antony Hegarty) – “Blind” (2008)
For a first single from a debut album, it doesn’t get as head-turning as “Blind.” The 6-minute house disco arrangement is epic enough, but to tap Antony Hegarty to sing turns the whole affair into a barn burner — especially since she is not known for, uh, “fun” music. You might be inclined to ask if they hid how jubilant this song was from Antony to get her to contribute one of the best disco diva vocals of my lifetime. But no, Antony co-wrote and co-produced the track along with half the tracks on their debut, which is still a blast of accessible underground club vibes. — Andrew Cox
48. Joanna Newsom – “Sprout and the Bean” (2004)
Before I moved to New York, I was hella depressed. I’d smoke weed, go for a walk (“should we go outside?”), and listen to Joanna Newsom’s The Milk-Eyed Mender. It’s music that waters the drooping spirits. She’s never wavered in the success of her vision, but this period sees Newsom at a more playful point in her career than the esoteric, knotty lyrics she proffers today. “Sprout and the Bean” begins with the line “I slept all day,” relatable at the time, but the prettiness of the harp and Newsom’s voice while asking to break some bread is pleasant and breezy and seems to dispel the danger, danger of the world. — Alex Wexelman
47. Hot Chip – “Boy From School” (2006)
For how thumping Hot Chip’s best song is, the end result is serenity in surrendering to time and childlike wonder. The Goddard/Taylor harmony is flawless and is bolstered whenever the percussion drops out on the chorus. The synth change at the 3:25 mark opens the song’s palette to a whole new world, and the brilliance is in how it never quite returns to where it once was. What could be mistaken as ending on a whimper is actually an example of boldly following the emotional pull of the song to its absolute zenith or nadir, depending on which way you look. — Andrew Cox
46. Kanye West (ft. Lupe Fiasco) – “Touch the Sky” (2005)
This song almost doesn’t need an explanation as to why it’s one of the best songs of the 2000s. It’s one of Kanye West’s most popular songs – for good reason. Although Kanye didn’t have a hand in the production this time around, the song was written by him, along with Lupe Fiasco and Justin Smith. The thing about this song, to me, is how comfortable Ye feels on this song; it’s second nature for him on all of his verses, he hits every accent with pure, raw confidence, and knows exactly what he’s doing. When Just Blaze was showing Ye beats and this one came along, he said he felt most passionate about it, and his passion and confidence overflows across “Touch the Sky.” — Happy Haugen
45. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of my Head” (2001)
The music of Australian pop legend Kylie Minogue has often been a force to be reckoned with on the dancefloor, and her 2001 hit “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is no exception. Armed with a simple “la la la” hook, sultry vocals, some euphoria-inducing electronic production and a keen obsession with an anonymous person of interest, Minogue puts them all together to craft a true dance-pop anthem. At first glance, it is just a simple techno song. However, it has an incredibly infectious nature sure to leave anyone who listens dancing and begging for more. Much like its title suggests, the track is catchy to the point where it just will not ever leave the listener’s head. — Drew Pearce
44. Three 6 Mafia (ft. Young Buck, Eightball, & MJG) – “Stay Fly” (2005)
When explaining the title to their 2005 album Most Known Unknown in the intro, DJ Paul said, “Three 6 Mafia is known but at the same time they unknown, you know what I’m saying?” Yes, we do — they might’ve shared that title with UGK, who they nearly formed a supergroup with apparently. After “Stay Fly” went to #13 on the Billboard charts, surely they were a little more known. The greatest part was that they achieved some mainstream success by just sticking to their roots. Their critical and commercial peak coincided with “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” winning an Academy award making for one of the greatest acceptance speech moments in the show’s history. — Andrew Cox
43. Ghostface Killah (ft. RZA) – “Nutmeg” (2000)
Supreme Clientele was never supposed to be this much of a classic. If you have the CD, you will undoubtedly notice how wrong the tracklist is: many songs aren’t listed, they’re mostly out of order, and included is “In the Rain” which is absolutely not on the album. You can’t even chalk it up as someone getting a wrong tracklist — the ones on the CD booklet and the back cover are different. Apparently, nobody making the CD cared if the tracklist didn’t make any sense. Imagining listening to the album in 2000, wasting so much time trying to figure out what any of these tracks are actually named.
Strangely enough, that chaotic energy the CD brings to the album is a perfect fit for Ghostface’s manic lyricism throughout. “Nutmeg” is the best example because after hundreds of listens, I still get lost by the third line with a reference to “Dolly Dick” and just about give up by the toilet bowl cleaner shout-out with “ty-d-bol, gung-ho pro, Starsky with the gumsole.” It’s an absolute rush of words and unexplained tangential ideas that turns off most people but is the signature reason for the cultish love of Supreme Clientele from stoners, poets, and hip-hop aficionados alike. — Andrew Cox
42. LCD Soundsystem – “Someone Great” (2007)
Sometimes, the music that sounds the most fun really can make us feel our best. Harder, more emotional music may offer some relief, but in times of stress, a cathartic pop song can release the most pent up frustrations. “Someone Great” offers respite in the healthiest way, offering a way to dance the pain away, with a beat that sounds like the lightheaded feeling that comes after laughing really hard with your best friend. The song is about how wonderful humans can be and the excitement that accompanies it, so the way that the sound encapsulates that emotion is just perfect. — Virginia Croft
41. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside” (2003)
A song that outright refuses to leave the U.K. charts, The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” is a bona fide alt-rock classic. There is just something cathartic about the track. Rapid drum beats, hyperactive guitar lines and frontman Brandon Flowers’ desperate vocals build an inescapable tension that releases in an explosive, euphoria-inducing chorus filled with power chords galore. What makes the song so addictive is its sense of urgency throughout, which perfectly matches lyrics that depict growing feelings of jealousy and paranoia. While it may not fit in with a lot of the pop hits that would make up a “2000s essentials” playlist, this song is sure to make any listener lose all inhibition and belt along. With “Mr. Brightside,” jamming is imperative. — Drew Pearce
40. Bon Iver – “Skinny Love” (2007)
“I tell my love to wreck it all / Cut out all the ropes and let me fall”
I feel this is what Bon Iver has done to me after listening to “Skinny Love.” I am falling, as my skin goose bumps and hair raises. A tear probably falls somewhere. There’s that sensation of being filled completely with something, whether that be sound or a feeling or breath. And then it is over, and I must let go. In this case, move on to the next song in the queue, which always feels too upbeat or off-base. I quickly drown out the music with thoughts of Emma — my childhood home I will never step foot in again and how he took my first kiss, discerning love from lust and making my decisions purely out of fear of heartbreak, people I’ve known, things I wish I knew. This song outlasts time. It’s acoustics may ebb and flow with the gentle tremble of Justin Vernon’s voice, but it is a steady sound that eerily and beautifully holds after it’s quiet. — Sadie Burrows
39. Annie – “Heartbeat” (2004)
For a music critic, judging the quality of a song is envisioned as an objective solo mission, but it never ends up that way. Just look at how many times a song’s placement on the Billboard charts has been brought up in this list; critics often seek out the work that everyone else is talking about, and if a song is popular, then the need to have an opinion on said song feels more pertinent. It’s why Poptimism isn’t exactly a necessary movement — the most popular music has always demanded the most attention.
So where does that leave great pop music that has never found a major audience? Would Annie’s “Heartbeat” be higher on ’00 songs lists if, say, Britney Spears rode this song to #1 for eight weeks? At the same time, would a formerly-indie site like Pitchfork have heaped so much praise upon “Heartbeat” if it had the taint of universal appeal? I can’t listen to Annie’s perfect nu-disco masterpiece without obsessing over what role music critics have in presenting unmitigated opinions on music no matter what audience that song or album will ever have. “Heartbeat” is simply a song that has made a dent in enough people’s lives ( certainly in this writer’s life), and it can in yours too. — Andrew Cox
38. Deerhunter – “Nothing Ever Happened” (2008)
I came to “Nothing Ever Happened” after Halcyon Digest (not outlandish to consider it the greatest indie rock album of the last fifteen years), and was not surprised they were capable of this pop rock epic. However, if you heard this song when it first came out, surely jaws hit the floor considering the noise rock approach of Cryptograms and much of Microcastle. “Nothing Ever Happened” was the turning point where Deerhunter could no longer be treated as a snobbish favorite — either you loved them or you were falling behind. Most of the song is just an epic guitar solo you can bliss out to — an increasingly rare find in my lifetime. — Andrew Cox
37. MGMT – “Time to Pretend” (2007)
When you listen to that first version of “Time to Pretend,” the one from 2005, MGMT sound genuine in their delivery. They hadn’t yet signed to Columbia — hadn’t worked with Dave Fridman, the mad-hatter producer best known for adding all the psychedelic bells and whistles to Flaming Lips’ LPs. It was all before they hit big on the indie gold rush circa 2007. This anthem of excess, which imagines a life of reckless rock star antics set against a thumping disco beat, ironically made the duo stars; no longer can Ben and Andrew sing of cocaine and elegant cars through a veneer of naivete. — Alex Wexelman
36. Taylor Swift – “You Belong With Me” (2008)
“You Belong With Me” is more than just the 2010 Grammy Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. This all-time Taylor Swift classic was released with an accompanying music video directed by Roman White and still replays in my mind when I think of top-tier romantic comedies. As a 12-year-old, I see the cutie with the Justin Bieber hair and Taylor in her peak teenage perfect awkwardness. The song played out very literally between the boy and girl and I cheerfully danced along. Even now, as I realize the lack of bliss in my 22-year-old 9-to-5 life, I subscribe to the dream. It sits on that classic Swift fence between pop and country, pulling at you to hope for happily ever after. The amount of contentedness I feel as the last chord fades is similar to the glee a youth receives on the last day of school. “You Belong With Me” will always be my song. — Sadie Burrows
35. Sufjan Stevens – “Chicago” (2005)
Sufjan Stevens has at least three main musical identities: downtrodden singer/songwriter, avant-garde/electronica virtuoso, and celebratory chamber pop/rock master. It’s arguably that last persona that he does best, and he’s never done it better than on this gem from 2005’s Illinois. Backed by several instrumentalists—as well as a choir—Stevens’ mesmerizing odd rhythms, dynamic orchestral tapestries, and humanizing delicateness is beautiful, relatable, and ambitious. Lyrically, it’s a wistful retelling of youthful traveling and romanticism whose uncomplicated but moving rhymes add to the Wes Anderson-like storybook charm. Oh, and the sleigh bells are the icing on its Brian Wilson-esque production cake. — Jordan Blum
34. T.I. – “What You Know” (2006)
There wasn’t a hip hop fan alive in 2006 that didn’t immediately perk up when you heard DJ Toomp’s mesmerizing synth intro to what you could consider T.I’s biggest hit. The song, which won a Grammy for best rap solo performance and launched T.I into superstardom, features repeated ad-libs before a chorus that you can’t help but get stuck in your head. Lines like “fresh off the jet to the ‘jects where the G’s at” serve to remind listeners that while T.I is now a big name in the rap game, he’s still very much still the Atlanta projects-raised hustler he was before fame. Add to that samples of Robert Flack and Jimi Hendrix and you have an unquestionably timeless hip hop song. — Clay Sauertieg
33. Modest Mouse – “Float On” (2004)
It’s still a bit odd that a band like Modest Mouse would have a hit that permeates popular culture. “Float On” certainly wouldn’t be what I would call a traditional pop hit, but yet the Grammy-nominated lead single from Good News for People Who Love Bad News was all over radio stations in 2004. The funky, singalong inducing rock song is just relentlessly positive, a song fitting of the album title. Lead singer Isaac Brock repeatedly presents listeners with shitty situations, like when he “backed my car into a cop car the other day” that end with surprisingly positive outcomes “well he just drove off, sometimes life’s okay.” All of this builds to an endlessly singable chorus of “And we’ll all float on okay…” The song, as intended, is a reprieve, if even momentarily, from the heaviness of everything in the outside world and for that reason it continues to be a favorite of music fans even today. — Clay Sauertieg
32. The Avalanches – “Since I Left You” (2000)
The desire for escapism has its faults if its mistaken for reveling in ignorance and avoiding societal issues, but there’s a purity to The Avalanches’ vision of paradise and bliss that will unmistakably wash over you. The opener and title track to Since I Left You is the best slice of this surrealist tropical atmosphere. Time bends in on itself with a 1968 sample of The Main Attraction’s “Everyday,” and the harmony in music and dance no matter what era or background is conveyed beautifully in the classic music video. Old miners dig their way into the present and go toe-for-toe on dance choreography with a couple young women. — Andrew Cox
31. Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out” (2004)
“Take Me Out” starts out as your standard upbeat rock song from Scottish band Franz Ferdinand off their self-titled debut in 2004, but then around the one-minute mark, the track changes pace and slowly brings in one of the most iconic riffs of the entire decade. The song has a double meaning, as on the surface it can just be the story of a guy hitting on a girl at a bar, but another rumored meaning references the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a nod to the band’s name. Whether typical bar rock lyricism or WWI meta-irony, “Take Me Out” is one of the greatest rock songs of any decade. — Nina Braca
30. Missy Elliott – “Work It” (2002)
We’re All Dancing To Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot’s Music
Another entry to this unforgettable list of songs from the 2000s is “Work It” by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott from her 2002 album, Under Construction. The single samples classic dance breaks and bells at the conclusion of the song; it’s fun as hell.
On the same Under Construction album, the remix lies near the end of the track-listing and features 50 Cent. Timbaland samples Run-D.M.C.’s “Peter Piper” and Rock Master Sxott & the Dynamic Three’s “Request Line”. Rumor has it that the historic hook in reverse was an accident. Accident or not, her lyrical dexterity spawned lots of inspiration and she still is unmatched in the rap lane.
Her creativity saturated all of the production that was “Work It”: the collaboration with legendary-producer Timbaland manifested as one of the craziest beats from the era and the music video highlighted the best the hip-hop dance community had to offer.
Disney starlet, Alyson Stoner, got her start in this storied music video. The “Work It” video also features tributes to both Aaliyah and Left-Eye who had recently passed at the time of the video creation. There are cameos from other musicians like Tweet and graffiti legends like Mr. Wiggles. Timbaland’s production for “Work It” is heavily inspired by the origins of hip-hop and the music video follows up on showcasing all of the elements of the culture. Missy Elliott’s work will forever be regarded as prodigious. — Chanell Noise
29. Arcade Fire – “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” (2004)
As the sequencing and scope of Funeral prove, Arcade Fire have always been among the most ambitious and characteristic bands in modern rock music. Case in point: “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” the opening track and first entry into the LP’s four-part suite. Its minimalistic—and almost apocalyptic—dissonance and chamber leanings melt into its desperate and frail vocals like the lovechild of …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, The Decemberists, Kings of Leon, and Bright Eyes. The piano motif enhances the sense of vintage nostalgia, too, and the lyrics foreshadow the geographical reverence embraced on The Suburbs. — Jordan Blum
28. Lil Wayne – “A Milli” (2008)
When Tha Carter III dropped, it was a coronation for Lil Wayne as the new king of hip-hop and the de facto punching bag for anyone who wanted to bemoan how far the genre had drifted from lyrics and strong personalities. In a just world, they would listen to “A Milli” and promptly shut up, because there’s hardly a better example of lyrical skill and charisma to be found from one rapper on one track than this. As Wayne drawls and drips out quotables like “I’m a venereal disease, like a menstrual bleed through the pencil, and leak on the sheet of the tablet in my mind” and “I don’t owe you like two vowels” over Bangladesh’s throbbing production, he flexes as a leader who’s delighting in riling people up just as much as he is in his genius wordplay. His career has been maddeningly inconsistent, but “A Milli” shows that when he’s on, he’s one of the greats. — Brody Kenny
27. M.I.A. – “Galang” (2003)
The world discovered M.I.A. with “Paper Planes,” but she had already been pumping out some of the greatest global pop work ever for quite some time, and it started with the debut single of “Galang.” It was originally released on just 500 vinyl copies and was on the demo tape that M.I.A. sent to XL Recordings (they would mass release the single). She originally made the song for the band Elastica, whom she had been a photographer and music video director for, but everyone in M.I.A.’s circle convinced her she could do it all on her own. The balls-to-the-wall experimentation and her kinda-rap, kinda-dancehall cadence is all there from the start, and a legend was unleashed. — Andrew Cox
26. The Strokes – “Last Nite” (2001)
In 2001, Pitchfork summed up the allure of the album: “…the Strokes have struck an incredible balance between the two extremes of rock music: sentimentality and listlessness.” Nostalgia is a powerful tool. “Last Nite,” in particular, revels in a simple, unexplained nostalgia, highlighting an inexplicable dissatisfaction that peeks through at random moments—“And baby, I feel so down / And I don’t know why”—and sets it against a catchy, almost celebratory background. It’s youthful, especially with the repetition of “they don’t understand”—there’s a weird triumph in this disillusionment of an adolescent outcast, and there’s always the reassurance, “Oh, baby, gonna be alright / It was a great big lie.” All this fuss over nothing. — Danielle Chelosky
25. Clipse – “Grindin'” (2002)
“Grindin’” Is Both a Virginian and Rap Relic
“Grindin’” by Clipse is near the top of this list and for good reason. The iconic single was the jump-off for the Virginian brother duo forever embossed in Hip-Hop history. The Figures behind Clipse were Pusha T and No Malice as emcees and legendary producer-duo The Neptunes (Pharrell and Chad Hugo).
This single from Clipse’s debut album, Lord Willin’ peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Top 100. In Virginia and the Greater-Washington D.C. region, the single received an insane amount of radio-play. The success spurred two remixes: one song featured new verses from Clipse with Noreaga, Lil Wayne and Birdman. The other remix highlighted some dancehall artists such as Sean Paul, Bless and Kardinal Offishall.
Like other early-’00s anthems, this song was inescapable. “Grindin’” was featured on the silver screen as an into the 2003 comedy, Malibu’s Most Wanted. The song was also played on the in-game radio in the popular game Saints Row, then later on the NBA 2K15 soundtrack. — Chanell Noise
24. Burial – “Archangel” (2007)
“Archangel” might act as a stand-in to gush about Untrue‘s unquestioned classic status nowadays, but it really does perfectly encapsulate Burial’s singular appeal. It starts with the five-second windy intro that sets the hazy, dingy mood Burial is known for. The hard, repetitive skipped drum patterns are subtly complex and are deployed with a steady grace that UK Garage and Jungle were frankly not known for. The voices drift and change tones, but in short bursts, their words speak to the emotional essence of humanity. Ray-J is the sample here, and what could’ve been a knowing wink at “improving” upon popular music is actually an embrace of the melodies and heartbreak found in r&b. All-in-all, it’s just stunningly crafted electronic music, but what makes “Archangel” and Untrue so beloved is the scenery and stories encased in each artistic decision. There’s a deep love and respect for humanity here that every music genre can learn from. — Andrew Cox
23. Wilco – “Jesus, etc.” (2002)
Shimmery and mellow with a folk flair, “Jesus, etc.” has a spiritual quality to it, evoking a relaxed mood and a quieter approach to Wilco’s sometimes heavy handed brand of rock. It’s the closest thing Wilco writes that resembles a lullaby. While many of their songs do take a stand against sadness and despair, this one also handles it in a musical manner, with strings that float in and out of our consciousness, with a lightness accentuated by Tweedy’s cooing vocals. With a melody that allows us to sway and ground ourselves, the track is full of beautiful, cleansing moments. — Virginia Croft
22. D’Angelo – “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” (2000)
Voodoo was designed to not be broken up into piecemeal and judged song by song. Even on multiple listens, the steady vibe drowns out your ability to discern track changes; this is the album’s greatest strength. It lasts until the penultimate track when the Purple-Rain-esque guitar riff to “Untitled (How Does It Feel” opens the song. Coming from D’Angelo, a Prince tribute is not shocking, but the overt sexuality and grandiose ambition of it all was not D’Angelo’s usual terrain. This version fit him best though as his legend and popularity grew with each passing year of his absence from the limelight. In the end, maybe Voodoo‘s greatest strength is that it acts as an hour-plus lead-up to the final minute of “Untitled” — a finale as fulfilling as Prince in the purple spotlight, guitar in hand. — Andrew Cox
21. OutKast – “Ms. Jackson” (2000)
Oftentimes, OutKast’s music can seem either hard on the humor or hard on the harsh feelings. “Ms. Jackson” listens like a rare moment for Big Boi and Andre 3000, as they reflect on the difficulties that come with the end of a relationship and those it affects. Being in a relationship doesn’t only include the two lovers, it can lead to having close ties with their family members, as “Ms. Jackson” focuses on the relationship between a mother’s daughter and her significant other. Big Boi’s verse tackles the points that come when parents split up, adding, “That’s my house, I’ll disconnect the cable and turn the lights out / And let her know her grandchild is a baby and not a pay check / Private school, daycare, shit, medical bills—I pay that.” — Virginia Croft
20. Rihanna (ft. Jay-Z) – “Umbrella” (2007)
Anyone scratching their head about Rihanna’s appeal after “Umbrella” dropped was either hopelessly dense, or hadn’t listened to any new songs since approximately 1978, if not longer. One of the best chart-topping singles of the decade, “Umbrella” almost didn’t even become Rihanna’s song. First offered to Britney Spears and then, Mary J. Blige, it became anything but hand-me-downs in Rihanna’s control. She found every bit of power from the song’s soaring chorus and longing vocals, and redefined how we pronounce the titular piece of protective rain gear. So powerful is Rihanna’s performance on “Umbrella,” a superstar like Jay-Z seems to just be along for the ride. She sounds so very relatable, even when it’s clear she’s headed for unimaginable heights. — Brody Kenny
19. Antony and the Johnsons – “Hope There’s Someone” (2005)
Having a playlist with almost every song on this list has some jarring side effects: how about following D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” with this ballad? That’s been ANOHNI’s place for some time — a legendary songwriter not just from left field but rather in another galaxy in terms of aesthetic. Her work as Antony Hergarty was modeled after drag show cabarets, which caught the eye of Lou Reed who had her featured on 2003’s The Raven. What followed was a critical breakthrough with I Am a Bird Now and its opening track “Hope There’s Someone.” Hegarty is gripped by the loneliness of death and fear of what comes after, and the payoff is the final two minutes where the piano seems to lift to the heavens. — Andrew Cox
18. Daft Punk – “Digital Love” (2001)
Like most songs by Daft Punk, I am left feeling like they just get it — it being how to write a song, to produce a song, to connect with an audience, to make the song fun and to make the music mean something. They did it all throughout their second full-length album Discovery, producing hits such as “Harder, Better, Faster Stronger” and “One More Time.” There is intentionality in their simplicity. There is thought infused in the party-like listening experience. This can be seen most clearly in their 2001 hit “Digital Love.” The song travels through various phases of rhythm, story, and instruments, ending slowly as a way to process the emotion and celebration. I am realizing this now as the song finishes. I haven’t listened to it since I first discovered Daft Punk in 2013. And, as I think they intended, I am experiencing nostalgia and projection at the same time. I am guessing as the line resonates: “Why don’t you play the game? / Why don’t you play the game?” — Sadie Burrows
17. Radiohead – “Everything in Its Right Place” (2000)
Radiohead is often labeled as the last interesting/innovative rock band; while that may be hyperbolic, it’s undeniable that their stylistic shift from OK Computer to Kid A showcased perhaps the greatest album-to-album evolution since the heyday of the Beatles. Luckily, opener “Everything in Its Right Place” placates any hesitation you have about their new direction. Its repetitious synth loops are simple yet mesmerizing; meanwhile, Yorke’s singing is characteristically expressive and lyrically abstract. Thus, it upholds the band’s idiosyncrasies while allowing them to incorporate electronic influences to establish a more unsettling, cold, and sleek persona that continues to permeate their work. — Jordan Blum
16. Aaliyah – “Try Again” (2000)
It’s a tough debate for the best Aaliyah track between 1998’s “Are You that Somebody?” and “Try Again.” They’re both non-album singles for forgotten movies and the best displays of Timbaland’s masterful production, but “Try Again” was the one that went to #1, Aaliyah’s only one before her tragic 2001 death. The song came out of her first movie role in Romeo Must Die with Jet Li, and Aaliyah originally wanted “Try Again” to be an inspirational song for young kids, but the record producer Barry Hankerson forced it into a love song. The chorus was too catchy to tamper with though, creating a jumbled message overall. It clearly didn’t matter to critics and fans who have deemed it a classic despite its extended absence off Spotify. — Andrew Cox
15. The Knife – “Heartbeats” (2002)
In 2002, siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer of Swedish electronic duo The Knife gave us an infectious synth-pop single titled “Heartbeats” that soldiers on as a prominent sound from the turn of the decade. The song is laced with romance, “One night of magic rush, the start a simple touch,” but José Gonzales’ stripped down acoustic cover paints a clearer picture of two people in love, “sharing different heartbeats.” Thanks to the video, I’ll forever have visions of skateboarders rolling down the street to the beat. — Leslie Richin
14. The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army” (2003)
It almost doesn’t need any explanation as to why it’s one of the most iconic songs of the 2000s. The intro melody (it was actually played with Jack White’s 1950s semi-acoustic Kay Hollowbody guitar set an octave down) is as iconic as it gets, and is a global phenomenon: playing at various sport stadiums to hype up audiences and players, featured in video game soundtracks, covered by some of the biggest names ever, the list goes on and on. Everyone recognizes this song because of how iconic of a hype song it’s become. “Seven Nation Army” is the 2000s version of “Eye of the Tiger.” — Happy Haugen
13. Kanye West – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” (2007)
Kanye West Told Us in 2007
“I had a dream I could buy my way to Heaven/ when I woke/ I spent it on a necklace” is arguably one of the coldest opening lines in a rap song. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is one of Kanye West’s most revered songs from his third studio album, Graduation.
Kanye West ran much of the late-’00s because of the critical acclaim of the album Graduation, his rivalry with 50 Cent at the time and his incendiary media presence highlighted throughout the decade. West is noted as sharing that “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is his favorite in his discography.
West proved so able, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” was nominated for a Grammy and lost to “Good Life”, another Graduation track. Since its debut on Hot 97 back in May of 2007, the song has been remixed to include a Young Jeezy verse, yielded two music videos, peaked at 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and was certified double-platinum by the RIAA.
Many praised West’s lyrical content in this reflective song. Looking back on the words, it would appear that Kanye predicted much of his future media hi-jinx in this 2007 manifesto. To be fair, his life around his music has always been controversial. This single marked a decisive growth in his unique-sampled-based production style. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” mixes up Young Jeezy ad-libs, Connie Mitchell interpolation and dramatic synths layered over strings.
The song has appeared in the movie The Hangover and marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship between the movie franchise and West’s discography. — Chanell Noise
12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps” (2003)
“Maps” is a song that stays with you long after the flickering guitar fade ends. Singer Karen O “just wanted to write a love song that stands the test of time,” and seeing as it made Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Yeah Yeah Yeahs hit the jackpot, as the song will be examined and discussed for years to come. During her emotional and authentic performance in the video, Karen O passionately cries out “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you” while clutching the mic for dear life. It’s that feeling of urgency and vulnerability you can’t help but connect with, that makes “Maps” one of the best of the decade. — Leslie Richin
11. OutKast – “Hey Ya!” (2003)
Few hip-hop acts incorporated tongue-in-cheek antics, insightful commentaries, and stylistic-splicing as ingeniously as OutKast. One of two #1 singles from their celebrated fifth outing, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, “Hey Ya!” fuses soul, pop, rap, and funk into an unbeatable formula. Both its music and wildly ambitious video—one of 2003’s best—even recall the female frenzy of Beatlemania and The Ed Sullivan Show, making it a hodgepodge not only of different genres, but of entirely different eras. It works so smoothly and joyfully, and retrospectively, it certainly predicts Big Boi’s contributions to Janelle Monae’s brilliant The ArchAndroid almost a decade later. — Jordan Blum
10. Robyn (ft. Kleerup) – “With Every Heartbeat” (2007)
How often do songs go #1 in UK, but never chart in the US? I don’t have the time to look it up, but that’s exactly what happened to Robyn’s possibly greatest hit. “With Every Heartbeat” was the inception of the Robyn songwriting template we know today. Every ’10s classic she made — “Honey,” “Missing U,” Dancing on My Own,” “Call Your Girlfriend” — is built around icy, pulsating beats, and the lyrics all focus on the confidence and self-defiance that comes in the release of emotion. You dance it out; you let go of your doubt and say yes. There’s no despair in the final repeated statement — “And it hurts with every heartbeat.” When the drums are churning, there’s no looking back. — Andrew Cox
9. Beyoncé (ft. Jay-Z) – “Crazy in Love” (2003)
It was inevitable. As soon as Beyoncé took the first verse on Destiny’s Child’s first hit “No, No, No,” it was clear a star was in the making, and a red carpet just had to be laid out for the solo career. Once songwriter/producer Rich Harrison incorporated a Chi-Lites horn sample and Jay-Z as a hype man for the intro to “Crazy in Love,” Bey just had to do her thing. But she didn’t just do that: she went for the gusto, hitting every note in her range, a few “uh-ohs,” and an iconic “you ready?” I don’t think I’ve ever thought in-depth about the lyrics here; it absolutely doesn’t matter. — Andrew Cox
8. LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends” (2007)
James Murphy at 37 years old on Sound of Silver speaks to every 16-23 year-old who is expected to have everything figured out and feels hopelessly adrift. He comes across as the quintessential indie movie trope of “aging-guy-who’s-been-there” like a real-life Noah Baumbach character, and we hang on every word. “All My Friends” is the exemplary model of his suited-up punk where the years keep flying by in multiples of five, the trips are fruitless labor, and your friends are never to be found. As steady as the song plays out, nothing is really reassuring; not shocking as it starts with a piano that is off-beat just enough to not get a full handle on it. The final message: you’re going to end up jealous of the kids and wishing you weren’t alone. — Andrew Cox
7. Radiohead – “Idioteque” (2000)
The end of the world has never sounded as good as it does on “Idioteque.” While an apocalyptic haze is all over Kid A, the immediacy of destruction in every form is most felt here, including loss of one’s composure. Thom Yorke timidly asks “Who’s in the bunker?” before getting frenetic about a pending ice age. When nuclear war and climate havoc are both existential threats, he doesn’t sound anything like a hyperbolic doomsayer. Elsewhere, Jonny Greenwood’s clattering modular synthesizer rhythms and quietly tragic synth chords, sourced from Paul Lansky’s “mild und leise” hold down this chaotic bon voyage to everything we’ve ever known. — Brody Kenny
6. UGK (ft. OutKast) – “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” (2007)
Where to start. For one, you pair Southern rap icons UGK and OutKast and you’re guaranteed to get something special, and that’s what we got. The moment listeners here Andre 3000 rap “So, I typed a text to a girl I used to see” you know you’re in for a ride. Andre 3K, Big Boi, Pimp C and Bun B tear up a Willie Hutch sample with lyrics exploring the idea of marriage and relationship from a bunch of different angles: Andre raps about the joy of his impending marriage, UGK and Big Boi hit us with bars about pimping. But really, it’s all about 3K’s wordplay for me. Particularly, the line “I’m so like a pimp (pip), I’m glad it’s night (Gladys Knight)” sticks out for just how clever he can be. While it peaked at No. 70 on the charts, the song has only become more popular with passing years and is now an iconic part of mid-2000s rap folklore. — Clay Sauertieg
5. Daft Punk – “One More Time” (2000)
For an instant jolt of energy, Daft Punk’s “One More Time” is an electrifying, defiant jab at “pop.” The French group’s approach to the genre goes above and beyond, fueling a fresh wave of pop-fused tracks. While “One More Time” was released in 2000, acting as an incredibly defining song of the decade and inspiring many new takes on music, it was completed in 1998, and just shelved until it was ready to invigorate the world. Daft Punk’s creation is an instant mood booster, packing a punch with its well-crafted synths and beats that ooze in “cool”, all in a manner only the group could foster. — Virginia Croft
4. Jay-Z – “99 Problems” (2003)
Jay-Z has probably the most-respected rap career of all time, and “99 Problems” is the non-negotiable greatest of his hits. It wasn’t that much of a hit in ’04 where it only went to #30 on the Billboard charts; this was probably due to the song’s harsher sounds which heavily contrasted with the smooth r&b production style of most popular rap hits. A lesser-known fact about this song is that the famous line — “I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” — comes from Ice-T in ’93 on his song called “99 Problems.” The main draws of the song come from Rick Rubin’s ’80s classic rock beat and Jay-Z’s brilliant lyricism, such as in the 2nd verse where he details getting pulled over by a cop. When it comes to your standard rap song (beat, verses, hook), “99 Problems” has little to no competition. — Andrew Cox
3. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On” (2001)
We’re All Dancing To Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot’s Music (Pt. 2)
One of my favorite songs from the 2000s-era in Hip-Hop is of course “Get Ur Freak On” by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott. Another Virginia-native on this list, she reached critical acclaim with this single from her third studio album, Miss E… So Addictive.
The catchy song incorporates Bhangra elements or the popular dance form from the Punjab state of India. There are classic hip-hop percussive attitudes mixed with a tumbi and punctuated by a tabla-sounding bassline.
From the music video to the Billboard peak number (number seven), “Get Ur Freak On” was a major success. In my own recollection, this is the song where I met Missy Elliott as a wide-eyed four-year-old. The radio had her song in heavy rotation, my parents owned her album and even my teachers would try and sneak some Missy Elliott into lesson plans.
A remix of this song with Nelly Furtado reached international commercial success and was featured in the 2001 movie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Since its inception in 2001, it’s maintained a timeless funkiness that dancers worldwide still freestyle or choreograph pieces to. “Get Ur Freak On” notably re-entered the Billboard Top 100 in 2015 after Missy Elliott’s Super Bowl halftime performance. — Chanell Noise
2. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes” (2007)
At first glance, “Paper Planes,” the hit song by Mathangi Arulpragasam, or M.I.A., is just a downbeat, hazy hip-hop track. However, on a closer listen, the song is a brilliant satire of American perceptions of immigrants and refugees from third world countries inspired by the artist’s own struggles with obtaining a visa. Along with lyrics centering around counterfeit visas and poor living conditions as well as ironic U.S. slang, M.I.A. employs the use of gunshot and cash register sound effects to represent negative stereotypes given to immigrants and America’s obsession with violence and money. In addition to the clever political overtones, M.I.A.’s laid back delivery paired with the use of African folk music elements and sampling of Clash’s “Straight To Hell” makes for a unique, timeless take on hip-hop and establishes “Paper Planes” as one of the British artist’s greatest tracks. — Drew Pearce
1. OutKast – “B.O.B (Bombs Over Baghdad)” (2000)
OutKast Creating Black History With B.O.B
Much of this list will invoke the feeling of nostalgia. Perhaps this list of the 400 Best Songs from the 2000s will spur on some throwback playlists (as it should). The music from this decade informed a lot of my musical taste and continues to inspire creatives to this day. One song in particular, “B.O.B (Bombs Over Baghdad)” will forever be cemented in not only rap’s legacy but the rich tapestry that is American southern culture and Black history.
The song was released as OutKast’s lead single for their fourth studio album Stankonia and although not super commercially successful, is regarded as critical success. Many publications hail the creative blend of traditional drum n’ bass instrumentation, gospel breaks, strong political lyricism and call and response flow.
In a 2000 interview with Billboard, Big Boi shared that he and Andre 3000 wanted to differ from their counterparts in rap; “Everybody’s been doing music like they have the same formula… where’s music going to go when everybody’s trapped in this same repetition flow?”
Like many of the other songs listed, the music video for this song is a piece of artistic history. If one thought the song alone was beautifully chaotic, they should continue reveling in the psych-induced funkiness that is the duo OutKast by taking another look at the video. — Chanell Noise